Posted by: rcottrill | October 8, 2018

When Rising from the Bed of Death

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Words: Joseph Addison (b. May 1, 1672; d. June 17, 1719)
Music: Third Mode Melody, by Thomas Tallis (b. ___, circa 1505; d. Nov. 23, 1585)

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Addison)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Joseph Addison was a newspaper editor in England three centuries ago. He is considered one of the premier authors in the English language. Sometimes, in writing an editorial for his newspaper, he would compose and include some lines of verse relative to his point. In this way, he has given us a couple of stellar hymns that are found in many hymnals. The Spacious Firmament is a powerful declaration of the truth of Psalm 19:1. When All Thy Mercies, O My God proclaims the Lord’s providential care of us all through life.

We’ve all likely heard the words in one setting or another. “Attention, please!” or “May I have your attention.” And there follows an announcement of some interest, such as, “Passengers for flight 647 are now boarding at Gate Three.” Or, “A new shipment of asparagus is now available at a great price in aisle five.”

And there are many other ways of getting attention. A shout, or a scream, does it, in a sudden emergency, or a drum roll or familiar music is associated with the arrival of some celebrity. Commercials on television have a similar purpose, to get our attention and promote a product or service–or, before an election, a certain candidate.

And what about the signs we see, almost everywhere. Years ago I worked in the photographic department of an advertising agency. One of the things we produced was signs–everything from small counter displays for stores, to large roadside signs intended to attract the business of passing motorists. In 1910, neon signs were introduced–bright, colourful, attention getting.

On a much more sombre note, an attempted suicide can be a sign. The late Judy Garland once said, “There have been times when I have deliberately tried to take my life. I think I must have been crying for some attention.” That statement should give us pause. Attention? A gifted singer and actress, she had multitudes of fans lauding her, through her television shows, movies, and so on. Ah, but that was most often attention to her talent, not a caring concern for her personal struggles.

It may be a surprise to some, but there are times when God wants to get our attention. He has that desire because He loves us, and wants us to make sure we’re on the right road in life. One of the ways He does this is through the exquisite beauty and thundering power of His creation. The Bible says, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).

Another important means of seeking our consideration of important truths about our eternal welfare is His Word, the Bible. The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path….The entrance of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:105, 130). And the biblical message can be amplified by sermons we hear, or books we read.

Finally, danger and difficulty of various kinds is a startling and intrusive method of the Almighty calling us to investigate our spiritual need (cf. II Cor. 12:7-10). A profane slave ship captain named John Newton freely admitted it was a terrible storm that threatened to sink the ship he was on that got him to face his eternal destiny and change course spiritually. His conversion gave us the hymn Amazing Grace, and a number of others.

Joseph Addison is another example. He went through a time of serious illness in 1712 that awakened him to his spiritual need. During his illness, he wrote a hymn about the way God used this to change his outlook. Though it’s not a hymn congregations know and use today, it does remind us the Lord can use unusual means to get our attention.

CH-1) When rising from the bed of death,
O’erwhelmed with guilt and fear,
I see my Maker face to face,
O how shall I appear?

CH-2) If yet, while pardon may be found,
And mercy may be sought,
My heart with inward horror shrinks,
And trembles at the thought;

CH-3) When Thou, O Lord, shalt stand disclosed
In majesty severe,
And sit in judgment on my soul,
O how shall I appear?

CH-5) Then see the sorrow of my heart,
Ere yet it be too late;
And hear my Saviour’s dying groans,
To give those sorrows weight.

CH-6) For never shall my soul despair
Her pardon to procure,
Who knows Thine only Son has died
To make her pardon sure.

1) What means has the Lord used lately to get your attention?

2) What has been your response to this?

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Addison)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. This is an excellent hymn for contemplating one’s eternal destiny. The words and Thomas Tallis’ music make it most appropriate for Lent (and especially Holy Week), with which Addison undoubtedly would have been familiar since the Church of England follows nearly the same liturgical calendar as the Catholic Church.

    Hymnary’s timeline suggests that this hymn has had a recent resurgence in appearance in hymn books. Do you know in what hymn books it has appeared? I have never seen nor heard of this hymn until you wrote about it.

    • Good to hear from you. is often a help with this kind of question. Here you can find a list of 243 hymn books that contain the hymn. Thanks for the question, and God bless.

      • Thank you. That was helpful.


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